Dress collection

Ashleigh Arntson, co-founder of If The Dress Fits, poses for a photo with her fiance, Jacob Franz, a L-BF graduate, after collecting dresses at Eleven 71 in International Falls in 2018.

An effort aimed to ease financial stress while shopping for prom is making its way to Littlefork later this month.

If The Dress Fits, a nonprofit organization that gives away lightly used prom dresses at no cost, will host a giveaway event at Littlefork-Big Falls School from 2-5 p.m. Feb. 22.

“I know from experience there are not a lot of inexpensive prom options out there,” said Ashleigh Arntson, who was a senior in high school when she and her mom formed the organization. “While I was shopping for my own dress, I felt overwhelmed with the expense.”

The Duluth native and her mother, Amy, officially formed the nonprofit in 2016. They have a 10-member board of directors and host giveaway events throughout the region.

“We hear stories of some people opting out of prom because they cannot afford it,” Arntson said. “I personally had a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on a dress I was going to wear once.”

As the idea for the effort took shape, Arntson said she knew right away it had the potential to turn into a larger project. The first year dresses were collected, the mother-daughter duo set a goal of receiving 50. They ended up collecting around 200 dresses.

“We’ve received positive support from day No. 1,” Arntson said. “Once we saw the amount of dresses people were willing to donate, it became real and something we knew we could build off of.”

Now, the giveaways feature dresses sizes zero-24 and follow the latest fashion trends. Arntson said inventory is always monitored and up-to-date.

“All the dresses have been washed and taken care of,” she said of donated gowns. “When people hear ‘free prom dress,’ they have lower expectations of what the dress looks like. These dresses look brand new.”

While the Feb. 22 giveaway is held in Littlefork, Arntson said everyone in the area is welcome to attend. The events are her favorite part of the organization.

“We put so much work into this project year around, and seeing people come get their dresses makes it all worth it,” she said. “My favorite part is seeing the facial expressions. People are so happy.”

While there is no cost for dresses at the event, each person is only allowed to take one gown, Arntson said. In addition, if anyone has dresses they’d like to donate, they can bring them to L-BF School on Feb. 22.

“We’re really excited about this,” Arntson said. “My fiance, Jacob Franz, is a 2014 Littlefork graduate. We’re looking forward to bringing this to his hometown.”

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